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GAMBLING: Judge proposal on facts, not rhetoric

Letter by Dolores A. Chiechi, RGA Executive Director, Olympia on Feb. 17, 2012 at 4:34 pm | 10 Comments »
February 21, 2012 10:57 am

Predictably, The News Tribune has once again bashed the proposal to authorize a limited number of electronic scratch ticket machines in nontribal card rooms (editorial, 2-17).

However, readers deserve to know the facts about House Bill 2786, not a rehash of arguments about proliferation and the social cost of gambling.

This bill specifically addresses past concerns about proliferation of gambling by limiting machine gaming to the 62 existing card rooms. Compared to the more than 25,000 machines currently in tribal casinos, the limit of 200 per location could hardly be characterized as putting “thousands of machines in state card rooms.”

HB 2786 is not about expanding the availability of gambling but about sustaining an existing industry that provides more than 6,000 living-wage jobs and tens of millions in local tax revenues. Just ask local communities like Lakewood and Tukwila, whose voters have overwhelmingly voted to keep their card rooms open.

The bill would generate $380 million per biennium, with the proceeds going to education, health and human services, and public safety. Moreover, this is not a temporary fix, but sustainable, long-term revenue.

Gaming is a $2.5 billion-a-year industry in our state; $1.95 billion of that goes to tribal governments. Allowing a limited number of machines in existing card rooms will not only sustain struggling card rooms, but finally provide a return to our state to help pay for critical services.

Voters do, indeed, need to let their legislators know how they feel about this issue, based on facts, not anti-gambling rhetoric.

(Chiechi is executive director of the Recreational Gaming Association of Washington.)

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